FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Ted Albert watches from a distance as his players weave in and out of drills. His buzzcut remains razor sharp, even though the sixth-year head coach shaved his hair off months ago.
Normally sporting a combover, the team shaved Albert’s hair at the beginning of the season as a show of solidarity to the coach’s cousin, Toby Sweet.
Sweet, a current student at Ferris State University, is currently battling kidney cancer.
Inspired by Sweet’s fight, Indiana Tech has adopted the hashtag #SweetStrong throughout the year.
“Sweet Strong means more to us than just words on a piece of paper,” said fifth year senior Lucas Lehrman. “It’s kind of been our motto all season.”
Along with shaving Albert’s head, the team has welcomed Sweet to campus for practices and games. On Jan. 14, Indiana Tech fans packed the Schaefer Center for a #SweetStrong night.
Sweet may not be a student at Indiana Tech, but the Warriors community has embraced Albert’s cousin with open arms. The head coach and his family have been overwhelmed by the team and school’s support throughout the season.
“I think that (Toby’s) just kind of made kind of strides to realize that people are there to help him and he’s not in this thing by himself,” said Albert.
Sweet’s battle has inspired the Warriors, who are enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory. The Warriors earned a regular season title in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference and recently punched their ticket to the NAIA Men’s Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 in Kansas City.
“We just know we want to go out there every night and compete and just know that we’re doing something,” said Indiana Tech sophomore Blake Davison. “We’re really privileged doing it just going out there and fight for him.”
“Certainly has given us that perspective in the sense that we’re very lucky, and to take advantage of these opportunities and, also understand we’re a group that really cares about each other,” said Albert.
That perspective on life gives Indiana Tech more motivation to finish the job and bring home a national championship in Kansas City.
“We’re going to fight till the end,” said Davison. “We’re going to do it together, and hopefully come out with a victory.”
Indiana Tech faces Jamestown (S.D.) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to the Elite Eight.